In the Year of Darwin, Anticipating the Dawkins Problem
Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. Nisbet studies the role of communication and advocacy in policymaking and public affairs, focusing on debates over over climate change, energy, and sustainability. Among awards and recognition, Nisbet has been a Visiting Shorenstein Fellow on Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, a Health Policy Investigator at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a Google Science Communication Fellow. In 2011, the editors at the journal Nature recommended Nisbet's research as “essential reading for anyone with a passing interest in the climate change debate,” and the New Republic highlighted his work as a “fascinating dissection of the shortcomings of climate activism."
Next year, as the science community celebrates the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species, leading organizations such as the AAAS, NIH, and the National Academies will be participating in coordinated efforts to reach out to new audiences, emphasizing the value and importance of teaching evolution in schools.
They will be using innovative techniques such as the AAAS YouTube video produced above. And as the National Academies did last year or as AAAS does in the video, they will be focusing importantly on the frame of religious compatibility, reassuring and confirming for many key audiences the compatibility between evolutionary science and the great majority of religious traditions.
Yet despite these communication efforts, the loudest voice on evolution threatens to be Richard Dawkins and other New Atheist pundits who will be arguing their maverick view that evolutionary science undermines the validity of religion or even respect for the religious. Dawkins, in particular, when on his US publicity tour for his forthcoming book, is likely to engage in his trademark rhetoric, comparing belief to a virus of the mind, child abuse, and fairy tales. In the process, he will continue to send confusing messages about the important differences between science, atheism, and religion. As he admits in the film Expelled and elsewhere, his personal beliefs about atheism are likely to do damage to the cause of defending the teaching of evolution in schools.
On April 13 (details forthcoming), as part of a lecture series in DC hosted by the National Academies and co-sponsored by NIH, I will be talking about the communication challenges on evolution, the recent innovative strategies on the part of several organizations, and the public outreach problems generated by Dawkins and the New Atheist movement. For a preview, see this interview segment I did with Big Think this past summer or this forthcoming book chapter.
The controversy around the Torah codes gets a new life.
- Mathematicians claim to see a predictive pattern in the ancient Torah texts.
- The code is revealed by a method found with special computer software.
- Some events described by reading the code took place after the code was written.
Pfizer's partnerships strengthen their ability to deliver vaccines in developing countries.
- Community healthcare workers face many challenges in their work, including often traveling far distances to see their clients
- Pfizer is helping to drive the UN's sustainable development goals through partnerships.
- Pfizer partnered with AMP and the World Health Organization to develop a training program for healthcare workers.
Orangutans join humans and bees in a very exclusive club
- Orangutan mothers wait to sound a danger alarm to avoid tipping off predators to their location
- It took a couple of researchers crawling around the Sumatran jungle to discover the phenomenon
- This ability may come from a common ancestor
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